Category Archives: Uncategorized

Who Loves The Sun?

By Peabody Awards (Anthony Bourdain) [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Anthony Bourdain killed himself today. I am devastated. Apparently millions of people are devastated too, because all of my social media feeds are a stream of grief over his suicide. The death part is hard, but the suicide part is harder and it makes me afraid.

My feeds have tributes from all over, the writers loved him, the foodies loved him, the TV world loved him. He was good at all these things, but before he was, he wasn’t. He was one of us. Washing dishes, slogging through countless shitty shifts waiting for a day off when he could sleep in, get high, do errands, get ready to do it all over again. But, he made it. Kitchen Confidential changed everything. He leveraged that fame into a way to follow his dream, and wrote Cook’s Tour. He was doing it. Traveling the world, eating food, writing about it. The way he wrote about life, and food, and work, was gritty, and frank, and dark, and funny. I devoured what he wrote, and listened to interviews where he talked about what books he liked to read, and read those too. Down and Out in Paris and London was one of his favorites, and soon became one of mine.

He ate at the finest restaurants in the world, but railed against food snobbery. Because, unlike many foodies, he understood that in many cases the people working in the kitchen could never afford to eat at the places where they worked. Sometimes, the best meal is a slice of deli ham and American cheese on a Hawaiian roll, squished flat and wrapped in foil. Sometimes, it’s a bowl of plain rice, because often its not about the food, is it? It’s about who made it for you, and why.

Tony Bourdain traveled and shared what he saw and what he learned with a huge audience. It’s telling that his show went from the Food Network to CNN. He was trying to make us less afraid of each other. He was trying to show us that at the core, we are all the same. We eat, we love our families, we try to chill out with our friends. And that is why I’m so scared.

I’m scared because, Tony Bourdain spent the last twenty-years or so traveling the world, embracing life, and trying to show us that it’s not so bad out here. We are all the same. There’s so much to see and do on this great planet. Another dish to try, another table to sit at, another story to write down. And still, he said, “I’m done. There’s nothing left.”  Days before his death he was posting images of food, friends, gorgeous scenery. I followed him on Instagram, and his stories were often simple panoramas of the view from his room, or from the window of a car driving through some city, or recently the inside of an elevator. They were always accompanied by music. The Ramones, or Velvet Underground or the New York Dolls.

But, you never can tell, can you? We have to do better. We have to love each other more. We have to check-in each other more. We have to see each other face to face and hear each other’s voices more. And, most importantly, we have to love ourselves more. Because ultimately, we are the ones that keep fighting, that get help, that keep going. And sometimes, keeping going means sucking it up and asking for help, and you have to do it. You have to. The stigma of asking for and receiving help is nothing compared to the hole in world left by the death of a bright light. And don’t wait. Don’t wait until you are making that final decision. Call someone, anyone, and tell them what’s going on.

I consider myself lucky, because I have never struggled with depression, and I hope I never do. And today, I will eat something shitty, and rail against the man, and listen to Velvet Underground, and think about how much an ex-junkie dishwasher changed the world.

If you need help. Get it. I still believe this place ain’t so bad. National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

We loved you, Tony.

Title for this post is from this song:

Snails On My Face

 

Do not put snails on your face for real. No really. Do not. Picture via By Jürgen Schoner

I do not consider myself high-maintenance. As a mom and a writer, I often get so busy with deadlines and regular life, I don’t have time to take a shower every day. I wear yoga pants or jeans most of the time, and I only get my hair cut when my bangs are so long that I can’t see. In most of my Instagram photos I’m wearing a hat. Is it for fashion? No. To show off my knitting skills? Well, maybe a little. To hide my dirty, unbrushed hair? Yes. I’ve even decided against dying the grey that has started weave its way through my dark hair. I honestly don’t mind how it looks, although grey hairs are very unruly and have the texture of what my daughter refers to as, ‘downstairs hairs’ (you can figure that one out on your own, I think). In addition to thinking grey hair looks cool, I also recognize that I’m too busy/lazy/cheap to keep up with regular hair appointments, and I know the roots would grow out and look much worse than the grey.

I turned forty recently, and in the run up to my birthday, discovered, or re-discovered makeup. For all of my lack of care when it comes to my hair, I have found that I do care when it comes to my face. Which is to say, the deep wrinkle between my eyes and the very dark circles underneath – which you can read all about here. I‘ll admit to being borderline obsessed about my dark circles. And so, in true confession format, I will also own up to spending what some would consider an insane amount of money on face creams. No, I’m not going to tell you which ones or how much, but if I did, I know you’d give me a stern look and say, “KATE!” in a disapproving tone. Also? My wrinkles are not any better. However, my face is super smooth. Which is why, finally, after many recommendations from both friends and beauty bloggers  (who are not my friends but I wish they were) I just ordered not one, but two products that contain snail slime as an ingredient.

That’s right. Snail slime. Slime from snails. You know those little gleaming trails that come out of a snail’s foot/butt that kids call a snail trail? That stuff. Have I jumped the shark? Gone off my rocker? Drank too much of the proverbial Kool-Aid?  Yeah, it’s totally likely. But, this is supposed to get rid of my dark circles AND my wrinkles! I will look like I’m twenty but without Botox and will still be able to perform a range of facial expressions. The purchase of these snail-enhanced products lead me to wonder, would I, Kate Kastelein, put an actual live snail on my face? And I have come to the conclusion that yes, I probably would, provided it met the following criteria:

  • 100% assurance I will not come down with some horrible disease.
  • The snail is no bigger than a nickel.
  • 100% guarantee it will get rid of my forehead wrinkle and dark circles
  • They sell these snails at Sephora

I was explaining all of this to a friend and she immediately said, “Oh yeah, that’s a thing” and sent me a link to this article. Will I travel to Tokyo to let snails crawl on my face for $250? No. But  only because they don’t guarantee that my wrinkles and eye bags will be cured. Otherwise, I’d be on the next plane.

 

 

The Good Stuff

I don’t know what to post here anymore except posts about not knowing what to post here. Truthfully, I’m holding back on y’all. Anything I think is remotely publishable does not end up on this blog. Why? Because then I can’t sell it.  I feel like I have written about this. before? I have.

Will this blog ever find its way? It’s been 10 years. I could cry when I think about the other bloggers that started at the same time I did and have gone on to have huge careers. Biggest difference? They picked a topic and stuck to it.

Boo! Hiss! Self Pity! Anyhow, just thought I’d stick something over here because I haven’t written for a while.

Still Relevant?

The small pile of books I read this January.

I read three books in January. One I loved, one I hated, and one changed my life a bit. Let’s start off with the book I hated: The Witches of Eastwick.This is one of the most poorly written, misogynistic, and stereotypical books depicting women I have ever read. That’s right- ever. Bonus: It was blurbed by Margaret Atwood and other literary luminaries as being a masterpiece and ahead of its time. Really? It was written in 1984. Here are the problems I had with the book, and you tell me if it is in-line with something ahead of its time for the mid-1980s

The witches, Sukie, Alex, and Jane, were so poorly written that I had a very difficult time telling them apart, even when they were in conversation with each other on the phone. They are all artists; writer, musician, sculptor. They are all divorced. They all have children whom they loath. They are jealous of other women and each other and they gossip about constantly. Here is how we are supposed to tell them apart – they have different hair colors and one thinks she is fat.

These three women, who have magical powers (that are never explained) use those magical powers to…wait for it….no actually – what would YOU use magical powers for? Especially if you are a single mother of multiple children in a falling down house? (Yes, all of their houses are in serious disrepair. I’m assuming because NO MAN). Would you, I don’t know – manifest money or success or a clean house even? Ha! Not these women! They use their powers to  get out of awkward social situations, hurt/kill women they don’t like, and most often – to seduce mediocre married men in their town. Seriously, they aren’t even seducing hot married men. One is actually Joe the plumber and is described as balding, hairy, and slightly overweight. Also? He has six children.  What a catch!

Blah blah, a demonic/type dude comes to town, they have orgies – because obviously – OH! I forgot to mention, did you know that women have hard nipples and think about them  ALL THE TIME? Well, John Updike reminds us of this truth about every two pages. Anyhow, demonic man comes to town, he marries another women, witches get mad, kill her, and demon dude skips town with dead wife’s brother.

Guess how this book ends? With the women growing apart, and each manifesting a nice, unmarried, mediocre man who marries her and whisks her away.

Apparently this book is supposed to be a commentary on effects of Puritanical values on women, which I get. However, the depiction of women is SO off base and off putting it rendered the book nearly unreadable. Updike is so grossly incompetent in his understanding and description of women that it’s hard to justify this as anything but a male-gaze, mansplaining novel of what women really want which is –  to have sex with mediocre married men.  Two thumbs down.

BUT! It’s not a total loss! Because the movie, which came out in 1987 and starred Michelle Pfieffer, Cher, Susan Sarandon and Jack Nicholson, is FANTASTIC. It fixed everything that was wrong with the book. The women are distinct and different. They manifest the demon dude – Jack Nicholson who is the embodiment of what each of them want. Instead of harming an innocent women, in the end they kill HIM as he has been manipulating and harming them. Oh also? They love their kids.  AND? Instead of marrying random dudes and never seeing each other again, they move into a huge mansion TOGETHER with no dudes. See how that works? Highly recommend it if you want a fun, 80’s woman-power movie.

Look at this awesomeness. Via The Hollywood Reporter

Book reviews to be continued tomorrow!

Come See The Girl On The Flying Trapeze

Today I took a big, scary leap of faith. It was the last day at a job I love, which I decided to leave in order to go back to writing full-time. I’ve been a full-time writer before, and I know how hard it can be to make money at it, and yet, here I go again. I’m scared. But I’m really happy.

I did not come to this decision lightly, mostly because, as I said, I loved my job as a research associate at a non-profit. However, I’m in my last semester of an MFA program at the University of Southern Maine, and my fiction has grown into something that I thought was OK into something I am proud of and think is pretty great. I want to keep doing it, and do more. I also have two children. Amazing children. Over the past two years people have asked me a lot, how do you do it? I wrote a blog post about it. But, if I want to devote the amount of time to writing as I need to in order to make a good solid go of it, something had to give. I talked to my incredibly supportive husband and he encouraged me to go for it. It’s going to be a little tight financially, but we will be OK.

While talking to one of my colleagues about it, she had a great analogy for times like this in our lives – it’s like being a trapeze artist. You are standing at the top of the pole and the bar is swinging your way. You can either make a jump for it and hope you catch the bar, or you can wait and hope it comes back your way again. It might not. I just turned 40. I fear that if I don’t jump now, I never will. So, here it goes. I’m making a jump for it.

Expect big things from me.

Be Unreasonable With Me!

My goals are crazy, like my bangs in this photo.

Hey! It’s that time of year again, time for the 11th annual list of Unreasonable Goals. I’ll be 40 in 6 days, so as you may have guessed, this year is crazier and more unreasonable than ever! New twist- as part of my (now 40 goals) for the year, I included 12, 30 day challenges. Here’s how I approach 30 Day Challenges – and the Unreasonable Goals in general – I do my best. Life happens, sometimes your kid pukes on you at 5am and you forget to meditate. This year I’m ecstatic to have a 55% achievement rate. Not bad, considering this list is bananas! I encourage you to play along with me, and just try your best. No judging if you only make it 3 days. Here’s my plan for 30 day challenges with the months I plan on doing them so you can join in if you want:

January – 30 Days of Meditation
February- 30 Days of Yoga
March- 30 Days of Diet
April- 30 Days of Walking
May- 30 Days of Knitting
June- 30 Days of Poems
July- 30 Days of Getting Up With Alarm
August-30 Days of Cleaning Out
September-30 Days of Black and White Photos
October-30 Days of Art
November-30 Days of Writing
December-30 Days of Gratitude List

I chose the activities for each month based on my schedule, and what I know I can handle that month. For example, I’m attending my 10-day MFA residency in January, and although Yoga With Adrienne starts her annual (and my favorite) 30-day-yoga challenge on Jan 1, I know there’s no possible way I will be able to stick with it. I am not about setting myself up for failure. However, I know I can find a few minutes each day to meditate, so that’s what I’m starting the year with. I use the inspiration timer app, and really enjoy it. There are a zillion guided meditations to chose from, but you can also use the timer function alone. It also keeps track of how many days you meditate.

Yes, I’m still off Facebook, and am really hoping that this blog can survive without it. One of the reasons I set up this year’s unreasonable goals to invite participation and discussion is that I’m hoping to create a little community here and on instagram. If you are playing along, or have your own crazy goals for the year use #2018unreasonablegoals and let’s get a little party started!

I’ve created a tab at the top of the page for my 2018 Unreasonable Goals so you can check out the rest of them. This year I tried a new google doc feature and created a to-do style checklist for all the books I plan to read (more on that list later). I’m looking forward to a crazy, fun, and productive year.

If I had Known

Sometimes I write poems. I almost never share them.

If I Had Known

If I had known
that the last time we spoke
would be The Last Time We Spoke,
I wouldn’t have changed a word.
Please,
I said.
Don’t do this,
I said.
Think of your kids,
I said.
You don’t have to go,
I said.
Stay,
I said.
Stay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes I’m Sick

I’ve written in the past about my colitis, but I’ve never written about the anxiety catch-22 I fall into whenever I get any illness. Because of my deep fear and anxiety around having another flare-up that would land me in the hospital or an illness that would possibly create a situation in which I have to take a prescription, possibly antibiotics, which can make colitis worse or even cause it in people that don’t have it, I have no ability to distinguish when to call the doctor anymore.

I have had colitis  since about age 13, and often remain symptom-less. I manage it through diet, lifestyle and pro-biotics. However, sometimes symptoms arise, and because of anxiety, which is thought to be both a symptom and a result of colitis, I become paralyzed with fear. Is what I’m feeling a normal blip in the course of the disease? Is it the flu? Is it something completely different?  I panic. This makes things worse. I get sicker. Which makes things worse. I google my symptoms. Which makes things worse.

Currently I am on day 3 of what I hope is a simple stomach flu and not a flare. My last incident ended up with me in the ER getting a diagnostic CT scan and a 17 pills per day regimen, which made things worse. That time it took 6 months to recover from the side effects of the drugs I was given, and after deeper investigation discovered wasn’t a flare after all.  Because I am so afraid, I am both reluctant to call my doctor, yet do so at the drop of a hat. What if doing nothing makes it worse? What if doing nothing makes it worse?

I know there are people out there in tougher situations than me. People who have colitis more severely. I know people who aren’t stricken to bed when they are nauseous. People that don’t text their friends and family for advice on what to do, and then go to the doctor anyway. But I also know that there are a lot of people who deal with this same anxiety, the same fear that a bout of stomach upset is the harbinger of something much worse.

What am I going to do? Well, writing about it helps. I’m probably going back on my annoying diet for awhile. I’m going to try not to be so afraid all the time. And I’m going to get better.

 

Showing My Underwear

It’s about to get real up in this piece. Why? I’m going to show you my underwear. Not my real underwear, underwear is the term I use for things you don’t want to show people but sometimes the wind blows up your skirt and you’re exposed. In this case, it has come to my attention that because of my carefully considered FB posts – and they are – everyone’s posts are, I have given the impression that my life is an amazing wonderland of togetherness. Well, yeah. That’s what I want you to see. Here’s a little truth bomb – I have like 500 friends on FB and 1k on Twitter- maybe 25 outside of family are invited into my real life. That’s how I want it, that’s how it’s going to stay. That said, have I miraculously cracked the code of how to be a working, stay-at-home mother and student and live a glamorous, stress-free life? No. No one does. So, I’m going to show you my underwear.

First, a little background. I am currently in my 2nd year of an MFA program. This semester, in addition to creative work, I’m writing a 20 page research paper. I work 30 hours per week as a research associate for a STEM non-profit, and I am married and I have two children, ages 4 and 12. Nearly every day people ask me how I do it, and I say, “I dunno, I just do”. But that’s a lie. I do know how I do it, and I will tell you, but you aren’t going to like it. There is no magic spell. What I’ve done is brutally stripped everything from my life that doesn’t fall within a few categories that I’ve determined are essential to my health, happiness, and growth.

Prioritize

These are the things that my life revolves around: Family, Work, School. That’s it. That is the order of importance. When I graduate, writing is going into the school slot. When (not if – take note of that) I start getting overwhelmed, I look at my life, and if something does not fit into one of those three categories – it’s out.

Things that are NOT priorities for me:

TV. I watch maybe 5 hours a week, MAYBE and that’s a high estimate.
Cooking dinner. This one makes me a little sad. I’m a really good cook. Luckily, so is my husband.
Cleaning. My house is a disaster. I clean like once a week. I have learned to let it go. We have clean clothes. We have clean dishes. Good enough.
Hanging out with Friends. Sorry.

My kitchen. It always looks like this. But, the fridge has healthy food in it, so I don’t care about the rest.

This is my office. It’s also my closet. It’s a pit, but I love it.

Things that ARE priorities for me:
Reading. I read 2 hours a day. Minimum. For school and pleasure.
Quality time with my kids
Having healthy food that requires no prep.
Physical Activity every day
Meditation & Yoga

My kids at the beach. I studied while we were there. This is an example of something you’d see on my Instagram or FB.

My priorities are not going to be your priorities. You need to figure out yours. I don’t care about TV, but if I cut out daily reading I’d be miserable. Maybe that’s not the case for you. Maybe you love TV. The key is figuring out what makes you happiest and cutting out the rest.

Plan:
My life is scheduled out, and I write down everything I need to do. I have 2 google calendars, an actual physical planner, and a white board for the family calendar. Here’s my schedule:

Monday – Thursday

630 – Wake Up/Meditation
700-730ish – Yoga  – often pause in the middle to get breakfast for 4yo.
730-800-Breakfast, Coffee, Kids to school etc.
830-330 – Work
330-530 – Family Time
600-630ish – Dinner
630-700- Walk with Mike
700-730-Walk With Maggie
800-11:00 – School
11:00- Sleep

Friday-Sunday

630 – Wake Up/Meditation
700-730ish – Yoga  – often pause in the middle to get breakfast for 4yo.
730-800-Breakfast, Coffee, read news
800-1200- Homework & Writing
100-800- Family Time (this often includes grocery shopping, cleaning the house, etc)
900-1100-This is when I might watch TV

Do I adhere to this exact schedule every day? No. I can’t. I have to go to the office once or twice per week, and travel occasionally. I often multitask. For example, I take the kids to the beach almost every day in the summer, and while they play I study.

Learn to love the word NO. No is your best friend. Do I want to be on the board of directors at our local library? Yes. Can I do it? NO. Can I be on the PTO? I’d love to but, NO. Do I feel a little guilty saying no all the time? Yes. What do I do to get over the guilt? Small things that don’t take any time – when I’m able I donate to local charities, schools, events. I have no time to attend meetings, but I do have time to fire off an email here and there. Mostly though, I am learning not to feel guilty.

Is this balanced? I don’t know.  Am I happy? Very. Am I stressed out? Not really. Will this work for you? I have no idea.

There you have it, a little peek at my underwear.

Via Telegraph.co.uk

If Mo Willems Wrote My CV

I’ve been reading this book at least once a week for about a decade.

If you have children, you know about the pigeon. He wants to drive the bus. He wants a puppy. He does not want to take a bath. I’ve read the books by Mo Willems to my children for so long I can recite them. I imagine if Willems wrote a book about my career it would go a little something like this:

My Mom Wants To Publish A Story

Hey! I’m Kid, Let’s listen to my mom talk about writing.
Oh, hello. Am I a writer? I am.
What does a writer do?
I spend a lot of time thinking about writing things.
Sometimes I write things.
I spend a lot of time fixing things I wrote.
Waiting for people to get back to you is a big part of it.
You want to know what I write?
I write about writing.
I write about eating and cooking and reading and knitting.
Have I written non-fiction books about celebrities? I have.
Do I write children’s books? I do.
Am I working on a series of horror stories? I am.
What about grants and scientific papers, do I write those? Yes.
Will I write something for five dollars?
ARGGHHHHHHH! NOOOOOOO!
I should be writing right now.
What’s that you say? Anthology submissions are open?
Hmmmmmm…..